In another sign of the coalition’s desperation to hold on to power via its rigging of the March 2 General Elections, the Carter Center is being denied permission to enter Guyana to observe the recount. Ever since Mingo was caught red-handed in his fiddling with the Reg 4 Statements of Poll (SoPs), it has been the presence of foreign observers who have played a critical role in highlighting the perfidy to the international community and censure on the caretaker Government of David Granger, who seeks to benefit by returning to office through fraud.
In the absence of these observers, the rigging would have been akin to the tree that fell in the middle of the forest, but with no one there to hear or see it fall, one could ask, did it really fall? It is a sad indictment on the underdevelopment of our political culture and institutions that we have not really moved forward since 1968, when Forbes Burnham and the PNC rigged the elections by manipulating the electoral list, the overseas votes, and the postal votes.
While the 1964 elections had been observed by a team from the Commonwealth – giving Guyana the dubious distinction of being the first to have its elections observed – sadly, this was not followed up in 1968. This was for the simple reason that the PNC did not give approval to any observer mission, which was a clear indication of its intentions, which were revealed in subsequent declassified US and British files. The electoral fraud, however, was the subject of two documentaries produced by Granada Television, “The Trail of the Vanishing Voters” and “The Making of a Prime Minister” which brought infamy on Burnham and his government.
Again, in 1973, there were no observers invited in and the PNC seized the opportunity to rig the elections by the simple but brutal expedience of having the army seize the ballot boxes, bring them to their headquarters and stuff them with pre-marked ballots. Dubbed as “fairy tale elections”, this was for the surreal insistence to go through the motions of democracy to give itself a two-thirds majority rather than killing two civilians who sought to “protect” the ballots of the people.
Henceforth, being forewarned on the depths to which the PNC would sink to remain in power, the opposition parties led by the PPP insisted that foreign observers be invited in to witness the next elections, which were postponed to 1980, because the PNC wanted to promulgate a new constitution using its two-thirds majority to create an “Executive Presidency” for Burnham. To keep its hand in, it massively rigged the 1978 referendum.
Responding to a PNC boast that anyone was free to come to Guyana to observe the elections, the British Parliamentary Group was part of an International Team of Observers that included Lords Avebury and Chitnis, and other members from several countries. Lord Avebury later pronounced the 1980 elections “more crooked than barbed wire”. After Burnham passed away before the 1985 elections, Hoyte refused to have any observers for elections later in the year. The British Parliamentary Group had to “observe” from Trinidad where they were stuck after entry permission was refused, and they condemned the blatant rigging that exceeded even Burnham’s best.
With the change in the geopolitical situation after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the PNC once again gained another two years before elections were held in 1992 and this marked the entry of the Carter Center as observers. Elements in the PNC – led by Hamilton Green and David Granger and other acolytes of Burnham, have never forgiven the Carter Center for the crucial role it played in returning democracy to Guyana.
In the subsequent elections of 1997, 2001, and 2006, there were a host of other observer teams joining the Carter Center since the PNC kept complaining of “electoral fraud” up to 2006. They did not complain to the Observer Groups in 2011 and 2015 since they came out on top.
Their complaint now speaks for itself. The observers must be allowed in.